Here we go. This is my manifesto. I’ll try not to use the acronym “OSR” more than 3 times.
I think I was 14 years old when I saw the Frank Mentzer (and whoa boy was he in some drama in 2017…) BECMI Red Box Basic Set, the one with the awesome Larry Elmore cover. As an aside (more on all this later), Elmore’s first Kickstarter was one of the first I supported and I sought him out when I finally went to my first GenCon. He’s a supremely awesome guy!) But, I saw this box at the toy store at the mall. You have to understand that the internet completely didn’t exist at this time, let alone Amazon. I don’t remember the circumstances, but apparently I simply asked for it and my mom bought it for me. What I do remember, is devouring this book while lying on my bed listening to my dad’s Led Zepplin albums. I would read, and re-read that thing. Just fantasizing of what kinds of worlds I could play in. I would create my own characters in my head (I didn’t have access to a Xerox to make character sheets, and even as a boy I was too OCD to writ in my book!). The next time I was at that store, I got the blue, Expert box, and eventually over time I had collected the entire BECMI set. I would then go on to read many of the Endless Quest books as well.
But I was incredibly shy in a small town.
And I had no friends in middle school who was playing D&D, or anything remotely nerdy. Eventually in High School, I did find one kid who was actually really into D&D. He introduced me to Dragonlance, which I read the Chronicles Trilogy, and he tried (operative word is “tried”) to DM DLC1. We had a large group of hoodlum friends who got together. I think we played 30 minutes (I was Tanis of course!) before all the group (except me) got bored and went out to smoke, or get a drink or whatever. That friend introduced me to the local gaming store (Wizards Keep in Muncie, IN), but by this time we were toward the end of High School. Other things started to take precedence over “playing games”. Furthermore, I went to Basic Training for the Army after my Junior year, and when I came back all my former friends had already gone in different directions than me.
I would spend my Senior year in high school incredibly fucking bored.
I’m really not sure how I graduated High School, but I did.
Long story, but I finished Army National Guard training afterwards and then got an exceptionally shitty job. So shitty that I kinda had no option but go to college. Else I think I would have killed myself due to depression thinking of how utterly wasteful “real life” must be. Looking back, maybe College could have been another opportunity to find some geeky friends and get into gaming, but it didn’t happen. I was so shy that I’d go to the Anime club (remember when Anime was only on bootlegged VHS tapes?) and I couldn’t even find myself striking up a conversation with those nerds! I remember going to Wizards Keep (it was on Campus at that time), and I’d steal D&D books (I’m really sorry about that BTW, I keep meaning to go back there, 25 years later, and try to make amends…), but again I had no friends to play with. I had started college “late” so I was a “nontraditional” student, which means I didn’t get that indoctrination into the dorms. I did join a Fraternity, but it was the epitome of the Animal House sort of frat.
Someway, somehow, through all of that I did find that I had a brain.
I’m not trying to brag, but no wonder I hated High School. It was boring. Instead of sleeping through every thing (like in High School), I studied my ass off in college. I finally found something to nerd out about and you didn’t have to have friends to lock yourself in the library all night with textbooks.
Let me tell you, if you want to absolutely waste your personal life away, then go to Medical School. The next 20 years is a blur from a nerdy/geeky/gaming standpoint. I would occasionally read a book; started reading the Drizzt books and re-read Chronicles and Legends. Played a few video games (but I didn’t really have money for it). But I simply “didn’t have the time” to do much else. Don’t get me wrong, I read like a motherfucker. Huge textbooks, one after the other, but not a single one was fiction or gaming related.
I did get incredibly invested into World of Warcraft.
God, I loved Vanilla. I think for the very first time in my life, I actually had friends. A whole group of them. I don’t care if they were “virtual” over teamspeak or ventrilo. I had a group of fellow nerds that wanted to hang out, play games, and talk about nerd stuff any time of the day, every day (and all night!).
But, as I am sure that anyone who’s been there knows, that train can only last so long.
I could only go so many months off 2-3 hours of sleep a night, so many arguments with my wife about “the guild”. Looking back, I don’t know how I did that while being on call every 3rd night as a medical intern and without getting divorced. Eventually, I had a real family and a real job and priorities are priorities. Which is good, I mean I was completely wasting my life away in a fucking video game, but I’m just saying… I really miss those times. Again, anyone who’s been there, knows what it’s like. (this guy sums up my feelings on this 1,000 times better than I ever could).
I suppose life eventually has a way of making things work out.
You get to a point in a career where you actually start knowing what the hell you’re doing. It’s why they call it “practice” in medicine. Unfortunately, that time was at the height of D&D 4e…
Looking back, I may or may not have even heard or read the term OSR (#1). I think I wish I did, but I didn’t. I did know about Pathfinder, but my God does PF suck. So, it’s kinda like “I didn’t know what I was missing”. What I did do was try to get into (what was at that time, THE D&D) as much as I could. I was reading the horrible D&D 4e rulebooks, and as many of the shitty WOTC published novels I could find the time to do. I went to as many Wednesday D&D Encounters that I could get to. I even signed on to every Meetup I could find in the little rural area I was living at the time. But probably the biggest problem reared its head again. I was too shy to get my ass out there and do anything more with real people and I was relying on finding others to entertain me.
It is really disappointing, but that’s like 3-4 years kinda wasted despite the best intentions.
However, we moved. Back to civilization (relatively). Back home to Indianapolis. And, you know the first thing I did? I bought Colts season tickets… OK, so that was a waste… The second thing I did was go to GenCon. This was actually the second time I went; first time I was poor as fuck and couldn’t justify more than a single day pass and too shy to have signed up for anything (I just browsed the vendor hall), so didn’t count 😉
This happened to be 2014. The release of D&D 5e. And, I decided I was gonna actually play games with other people. I signed up for D&D All Access. I took my brother (of course I paid his tickets too!). Wow what a blast! I remember having to get used to how 5e played differently than 4e, but right away I was going home and reading all the material (schwag) I got from the game, signed copies of the Player’s Handbook and the (at the time unreleased) Monster Manual.
I stumbled upon Larry Elmore’s The Complete Elmore Artbook. That got me to thinking about all those hours, sitting on my bed in the middle 80’s, listening to heavy metal, and thinking about truly fantastic things while my soul dissolved into such gorgeous artwork. I started reminiscing, sure, but it also got me searching the interwebz about the old things I used to read. In that mix, the first Dwarven Forge Kickstarter came out. I gladly laid down $1000 for something that I never knew if I’d get, cause I found a whole community of like minded people willing to do the same. The comments section for a DF KS is a real site to be hold, filled with fanatical miniature enthusiast nerds. I feel truly naive now, but I had no idea!
Who knew there was actually a whole bunch of dudes doing the same exact thing! From there, it simply became a rabbit hole!
Somewhere in here, I also have to mention Gygax Magazine #1. How did I find this? I don’t remember, but for me was another piece of the puzzle.
It was around this time that Of Dice and Men came out. I still haven’t read that book, but the press the book received sums up what I see as the beginning of a revolution in our culture. Nerd became cool. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a smash hit (fuck the Hobbit trilogy, let the universe forever forget it was ever made…) and you started seeing YouTube channels, Twitch streams, Kickstarters galore, and a true Renaissance (in the truest sense) take off. Yes, I am now fully aware that there were active Google+ groups already before this, I’m aware there was apparently a movement 2 years before OSRIC, I missed some awesome Kickstarters, and I totally missed that there was a whole slew of Retro-Clones and Variants already out there being enjoyed by many. Not to mention the tidal wave of recommendations to “read the Appendix N!!!” But, I’m sorry, I showed up to the party a little late.
Nevertheless, it is now on. And, I found a group of other middle aged, working, parent, nerds. And they made me their Dungeon Master… muahahahaha!!!!!
And, you get to a point when you are a little too old to be shy anymore.
So, is this YAOSR blog? (I’ll give that #3) I don’t intend it to be. Too late for that to be relevant. And, I’m not one of these guys trying to craft a career in the ever popular and highly lucrative field of RPG design. I’m just a dude trying to catch up on a couple decades of fun. Fantasizing about swords & sorcery. And sometimes I like to write stuff; thought I’d post my own musings from time to time.
I’m going to stop here. For me, to list some links to other sources which have inspired me over the past year better sums up my “research” from the time where this story ends and possibly where things will be going in the near future:
In no particular order:
- Runehammer Youtube and Patreon (though I’ll still refer to Hank as the “Drunkens & Dragons Dude!”
- The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition by Robert E. Howard
- Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H. P. Lovecraft
- Louis Zocchi from Gamescience Dice
- Goodman Games
- How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss from Venger Satanis
- Tim Kask
- Dyson’s Dodecahedron (Patreon) (YouTube)
- A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming
- Coast to Coast AM
- The Mighty Gluestick
- Happy Jacks RPG Podcast
- Lore Podcast & Patreon
- Kobold Press Patreon for Warlock
- Larry Elmore
- Jeff Easley
- Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea